Traffic stop arrest of Kelowna couple lawful, judge rules

Traffic stop arrest of Kelowna couple lawful, judge rules

B.C. Supreme Court judge upholds decision that the charter rights were not violated

The charter rights of two Kelowna residents charged with drug offences were not violated during a 2014 traffic stop, said a B.C. Supreme Court judge in a written decision released last week.

Donahugh McWhirter, 44, and Brittany Stinn, 28, are charged with possession of drugs and possession of drugs for the purpose of trafficking, along with various firearms charges.

They had been under surveillance as McWhirter was identified as a target for a Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit investigation because of suspected drug trafficking. They believed he was a member of a criminal organization known as the Independent Soldiers.

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When the couple was travelling to Kelowna from the Lower Mainland in November 2014 they were pulled over by a traffic stop near Merritt.

The search involved the use of a police dog who indicated the presence of drugs in the vehicle. The subsequent physical search of the vehicle was conducted by the dog’s handler, who found a quantity of drugs in the car.

McWhirter and Stinn claimed that their rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms were breached by the police so that any evidence obtained as a consequence of the traffic stop and subsequent search should not be admissible at their trial.

On Dec. 12, 2017, Justice Barry Davies ruled the police “reasonable and subjective grounds to detain both accused to investigate whether they were at the time in possession of drugs.”

That was based in part on the assumption that the primary investigator in this case who directed the traffic stop resulting in the arrest, had “reasonable and probable grounds to arrest both accused.”

McWhirter has since pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine and MDMA for the purpose of trafficking, along with unlawful possession of a shotgun and rifle while he was prohibited. He’s scheduled to be back before the courts on May 28 for a three-day sentencing hearing.